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Strong women build strong communities: 2022 Reflections


Global movement. Local impact. 

Locally, United Way East Ontario’s Women United is a network of 845 donors and 114 members who are dedicated to leveraging their time, talents, and funds to empower women in our communities to build strong, independent lives. Members, depending on their giving level, have opportunities to review proposals, participate in the investment process, consult on major governance decision-making, act as a steering member of programs, and more.  

In our region, Women United makes a difference in these four areas:  

  1. Addressing gender-based violence   
  2. Empowering women in leadership   
  3. Supporting young mothers and their children   
  4. Building an equitable economic recovery   

Making a difference   

As a collective, Women United invests in two distinct areas:  

  • Community Action Grants supporting small, grassroots initiatives in our region’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods. These grants support women living in these areas to become leaders and changemakers, identifying and executing on small initiatives for the betterment of their communities. 
  • United Way’s Community Fund to bolster the organization’s impact agenda, helping to improve the lives of women across our region. 
In 2022, Women United invested $178,804 into: 

Community Action Grants

11 programs, 9 agencies, 1,525 people. In 2022, Community Action Grants supported many activities, including:  

  • Free summer sports opportunities for newcomer and racialized young women— to promote mental wellbeing and break cultural stereotypes.  
  • Community gardens—to support food security, improve mental health, and promote community engagement.  
  • An art therapy program for Indigenous women feeling violence, bringing them community and a creative outlet. 
  • A planning committee that provides rural, young women with a platform, a voice, and a place to engage and build their futures.
  • Community social groups for women living in “recreation deserts” to prioritize a safe space to make connections and learn new skills.  

United Way Community Fund

9 programs, 9 agencies, 948 people. In 2022-23 the United Way’s Community Fund supported many activities, including:  

  • Programs that support young mothers and their children in at-risk neighbourhoods and rural communities. 
  • Skills training that help marginalized populations, particularly newcomer women, break down barriers and enter the Canadian labour market. 
  • A training series to help residents in low-income communities feel empowered to take on leadership roles and address community issues. 
  • Court support, counselling, crisis, and trauma supports to women who encounter criminalization.  
  • Holistic mental health and addictions counselling to support the mental wellbeing of Indigenous women and youth.

Empowering women to create lasting change

For many women who are newcomers to our region, or to Canada, putting down roots can feel overwhelming and isolating. That’s why Women United supports partners like Creating the Change We Want (CCWW) to make sure that residents have access to the support they need to get settled and find community. 

The CCWW program helps women build skills and confidence to make a positive impact in their neighbourhoods. Ola, a graduate of the CCWW program, shares what it means to newcomers like her: 


“If they don’t have access to these sessions, the women will be alone. They will be in their own bubble and won’t be aware of anything that happens around them. Just like me in the beginning, when I had just arrived in Ottawa. I didn’t know anything about life here.”

Ola says that the women’s group and the CCWW workshops she attended were vital in helping her learn to navigate her new community after moving to Ottawa.  

Events exploring the power of using your voice

This past year, our Disruptive Dialogue event went hybrid: allowing supporters to participate online from the comfort of their own homes and in-person viewing parties hosted by their workplaces. We were thrilled to welcome more than 150 virtual attendees and had five viewing parties hosted by Accenture, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, Algonquin College, and Bank of Montreal. 

And, in honour of International Women’s Day in March 2023, we hosted an inspiring event with guest speakers Jennifer Stewart and Catherine Clark, co-hosts of The Honest Talk podcast. We brought together leaders, advocates, and community members to celebrate women’s achievements and discuss the shared experiences of women and trailblazers 

Member spotlight: Krista Pearson 

woman with short brown hair and greenish gray eyes smiling

“At the start of the pandemic three years ago, I was seeking ways to get more involved and to provide support in the community. I had been living in Ottawa for four years at the time and was ready to find new ways to connect following the end of another commitment as the past president of a Board. When I researched ways to give back to my new(ish) community, I intentionally focused on the lives of women, family and children. This brought me to Women United.”

Raised by an inspiring single parent, I have always been drawn to the work of United Way and initiatives that involve supporting women, girls, and gender-diverse people. Women United combines opportunities for volunteers to give back in multiple ways, recognizing that each person has access to different resources, skills, and abilities; and then through the funding and programs, Women United works in the community with real people to make a difference to the lives of women and families.  

I know that strong women and families help to build strong communities that thrive. Ottawa is home to so many communities that can benefit from the work of Women United. It is with great appreciation for all the good in my own life and community that compels me to want to contribute. 

Make a difference in your community. 

Special thanks to Women United’s program sponsor, Accenture, for supporting our initiatives and engagement opportunities.  




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